... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume IV


It starts every November, when the leaves are falling, the pigskins are flying and nobody's pre-filed a bill yet.

FITS likes to refer to it as the "Era of Good Feelings," named after that sanguine period of American History from roughly 1817-1825 when America was at peace, partisanship was on the decline and culture and innovation flourished.

Here in South Carolina, we get to experience a mini-Era of Good Feelings each year, which usually lasts from November until shortly after the General Assembly is gaveled into session on the second Tuesday of each January. Everybody talks about getting along, working with each other, doing the people's business, etc., but sooner or later (usually sooner), something ignites the powder keg.

Realistically, take a maverick governor, 170 ego-driven lawmakers, hundreds of lobbyists, thousands of bills and billions of taxpayer dollars, throw them into a confined space where nothing is secret and see how long you can stave off a conflagraton - particularly in an election year.

This session, it didn't take long at all. First it was the House versus The State Newspaper-anointed "Business" Community over property tax relief. Then just last week it was the House versus the governor over the state budget. What'll it be next week?

Whatever unfolds, keep it tuned to FITS "Heard in the Echo Chamber" every week for the very latest on this year's deepening drama under the dome ...

SEN. SETZLER TAKES A WALK

Maybe he had to go to the little boy's room. Or maybe he had an important phone call to make. Maybe he just needed some fresh air. Or, could it be that one of the million-and-one lobbyists hired by the Billboard industry this session talked State Sen. Nikki Setzler into taking a walk last week during a critical veto vote?

Whatever the case, the State Senate overrode Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of a controversial new billboard law by one vote ... that's right ... one vote.

The bill, which effectively strips the ability of local governments to regulate billboards, represents a clear violation of home rule and is perhaps the most flagrant special interest-driven piece of legislation this state has seen since Sanford took office three years ago.

No doubt at the urging of a recent FITS post (we're kidding, of course), Sanford vetoed the bought-and-paid-for measure, which could make towns pay up to $400,000 for each billboard they wish to remove. And despite the gobs of money heaped on armies of lobbyists and multiple campaign contributions for legislators, it seemed that the State Senate might actually succeed where the scruple-less House failed and sustain the governor's principled, albeit politically-risky veto.

Believe it or not, the good guys were actually poised to score an important victory ... that is, until Sen. Setzler decided he needed some air.

FITS' NICKNAMES CATCHING ON IN STATE HOUSE

Mitch Dorman and his heat-packing House Guardsmen may be able to keep reporters Aaron Sheinin, John Frank and Jim Davenport at bay (not to mention the entire House Democratic Caucus), but not FITS' nicknames.

That's right, word on the street is that our little website (and particularly our homegrown nicknames for various legislators) are becoming so popular that legislators are even using them in sacred institutional settings like last week's closed door GOP caucus meeting.

While FITS is awaiting its transcription from Rep. Dan Tripp's "Office of Secret Intergovernmental Taping and Subsequent News Media Leaking," preliminary reports indicate that more than one member of the House GOP Caucus openly referred to House Ways & Means Chairman Dan "Coo-Coo-Ca-Choo" Cooper as "Chairman Egg-Tooth" during the nearly two-hour meeting. Reports also indicate that Speaker of the House Bobby "Pork" Harrell is now openly called "Mr. Mayor" by several of his colleagues, a reference to his now-infamous "Mayor of Importantville" moniker.

Given our rise in stature, FITS was under heavy pressure this week to run a photo of the animated hero "Shrek" on our website in homage to Rep. Chip Limehouse, but alas, our Google search revealed no images of the computer-generated cartoon character engaging in public breastfeeding. FITS was also unable to find a "Flounder" image suitable for a tribute to Rep. Thad Viers, but there's always next week on both counts.

AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE

First off, Happy Birthday to the "Queen of the SC Blogosphere," Miss Laurin P. Manning. We at FITS wish you nothing but the best on your special day, and Laurie has that present you've been asking for ready for you whenever you want to stop by and pick it up. That's right, it's a Tommy Windsor doll that spits out your favorite quotes from Steel Magnolias ... including M'Lynn's "That sanctuary looks like it's been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol" and Annelle's "Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair."

In other blog notes, Joshua Gross had a very insightful look at the County Convention scene last week over at his blog, The Body Politic (www.schotline.blogspot.com). And Ross Shealy, while still an a**hole, nonetheless gets a Gold Medal for funny this week over at the Shealy Barbecue Blog (www.scbarbecue.blogspot.com). Love him or hate him, his Olympic parody on Gov. Sanford and our favorite bad boy Sic Willie winning medals for "Jobsledding" and "Gurling," respectively, is one of the funniest things we've read in a long time.

Finally, in what may or may not be a real send-off, "Queer as Folks" blogger Paul Adams says he's retiring from the business. In characteristic adult-ADD fashion, Paul rambles through a barely-coherent farewell message that includes references to his new job, the death of his grandmother, his recent inheritance, charter fishing boats, the Grateful Dead, Will Folks and Kermit the Frog. And you thought Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address was disconnected?

FITS cannot possibly understate how hilarious this final "Queer As Folks" blog post is, so be sure to check it out at www.queerasfolks.blogspot.com.

Until next week ... be heard.

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